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Bumpy road ahead as Uber’s licence battle continues

DISPUTE: Uber is facing problems in
London, Sheffield and Brighton
DISPUTE: Uber is facing problems in London, Sheffield and Brighton

UBER will defend its right to operate in London in court next year after the company was deemed unfit to run a taxi service and stripped of its licence in its most important European market.

Regulator Transport for London (TfL) shocked the Silicon Valley firm by rejecting its licence renewal bid in September, citing its approach to re­porting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Uber’s 40,000 drivers, representing around one in three of all private hire vehicles on the British capital’s roads, can continue to take passengers until the appeals process is exhausted, which could take years.

The legal battle pitches one of the world’s richest cities against a tech gi­ant known for its forays into new mar­kets around the world that have prompted bans, restrictions and pro­tests, including by drivers of London’s famous black cabs.

At a case management hearing on Monday (11), the chief magistrate at Westminster magistrates’ court, Em­ma Arbuthnot, said she hoped to hear the appeal over five days from April 30, although the start date could be pushed back due to scheduling clashes.

Hearings will take place next week to decide whether the GMB trade un­ion and the London Taxi Drivers’ As­sociation can participate in the case.

Months of further legal wrangling are likely unless Uber, valued at around $70 billion (£52bn) with investors in­cluding Goldman Sachs, can come to a new arrangement with the regulator. The company’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, has apologised to Lon­doners and met TfL commissioner Mike Brown in October for what both sides described as constructive talks.

Uber also faces potential problems in Sheffield, where its licence has been suspended, as well as in Brighton, where local officials extended the firm’s licence for only six months to give them more time to consider the out­come of the dispute in London.